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Sunday’s Football Focus

Just five weeks to go to the start of the new Premier League season and fans are already getting jittery about transfer targets missed or yet to arrive. And no supporters will be more concerned than those of the three clubs promoted from the Championship, Cardiff City, Hull City and Crystal Palace.

Coral rate these three as the most likely to be relegated (13/8, 8/13 and 4/7 respectively) and in their ‘Who Will Finish Bottom’ market Palace are 13/5 favourites ahead of Hull at 7/2 and Cardiff at 6/1. Then come Norwich (8/1), Stoke (10/1) and Southampton (11/1).

The golden currency in the Premier League survival stakes is goals and it is not too surprising that last season’s bottom club, QPR, found the net the least times.

So Palace, though finishing several points behind Cardiff and Hull, are by some measures in a better position to survive than the other two. Glen Murray, who top scored in the Championship with 30 goals, will be badly missed while he recovers from knee surgery and Manchester United signing Wilfried Zaha, who played such an important part in the Eagles’ play-off triumph, will be irreplaceable.

But Murray will be back, hopefully some time before Christmas, and manager Ian Holloway has also been busy in the transfer market recently, signing winger Jerome Thomas and young striker Dwight Gayle for £4.5m from Peterborough. Gayle, who scored 13 goals for the Posh last season, is a significant acquisition and might even make the difference in the end between staying up or going down.

Cardiff, too, have paid good money to bring in an exciting young striker – Andreas Cornelius for £7.5m from FC Copenhagen. Malky Mackay will be cock-a-hoop if Cornelius can repeat what he did for the Danish club last season and score 20 goals.

Hull, on the other hand, struggled for goals last season – no team scored less in the top half of the Championship – and manager Steve Bruce has been frustrated so far in his attempts to add more firepower to the Tigers forward line.

And if goals scored is as important as it usually is, then Stoke City (100/30 to be relegated) might also be struggling. They netted only 34 times last season, far less than anybody else bar QPR, and new boss Mark Hughes’s two summer signings, Erik Pieters from PSV Eindhoven and Marc Muniesa from Barcelona, are defenders. Hughes, such a brilliant striker himself, will know what he needs and it is no surprise to learn that the Potters have also been linked recently with Jermaine Defoe.

Written by Jon Freeman